“When, as a 7th grader, I wrote a speech based on Martin Seligman’s theory of learned helplessness, little did I imagine that several decades later I would be sitting at Professor Seligman’s kitchen table discussing what positive psychology can learn from sociology, and vice-versa.
However, just as Martin Seligman’s career in psychology took an about turn when he stopped studying pessimism and turned to studying optimism, so my interest in how social conditions oppress people has now morphed into my growing interest in what social conditions lead to human flourishing.
In this TED video lecture below, Seligman describes briefly his 30 years of work on depression and learned helplessness. Modern psychology, he argues, made tremendous strides in diagnosing and treating a number of mental illnesses. But, he finally realized, curing people of mental illness is not the same as helping them lead a life full of meaning, engagement, and positive emotions. Hence, with a few other prominent psychologists, Seligman founded a movement know as Positive Psychology, which sought to bring the best social scientific methods to help understand what constitutes happiness and perhaps more importantly, whether we can design interventions to increase happiness—which he has shown we can…”